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Learning Curves For Scotland’s Senior Sides

Date: 14th June 2019

 

Having watched Scotland’s senior male and female teams play four times this week, it seems as though both are on big learning curves. 

I’ll start by discussing the women’s side as they’re the ones proudly representing us at a World Cup in France

Unfortunately they’ve lost both of their group games thus far and need a win over Argentina in their final match if they wish to have any chance of progressing. 

In their two opening matches it’s been clear that Scotland are making their debut at this big stage. They’ve looked nervy, have struggled to get the most out of their front players and have had defensive issues too. 

They have conceded the first goal in both losses and the side have twice struggled to regain their concentration levels after conceding and it creates a real set-back that the opposition teams have pounced upon as they started to dictate play and get another strike in before half-time.

The Scotland team might feel aggrieved by certain refereeing decisions but they simply can’t let that hamper their mindset. 

For too many periods, the midfield lose ground and that causes a disconnect between them and the attack. The engine room also seems to miss a real marshall that can win possession further up the field and this sees the backline drop too deep on occasions. I think boss Shelley Kerr still needs to find the best formation to get our attacking players into the game in the right positions. 

We do have positives to build upon though.

In Lee Alexander, we have a terrific goalkeeper. The twenty-seven year old has the potential to get even better but she’s already been a real star for us in this tournament. As I’ve already mention, the back four have got a mistake or two in them and Alexander has managed to keep scorelines down with some fantastic reflexes and her shot-stopping reminds me of Andy Goram and that’s a huge compliment.

I think we’ve got a great player in Erin Cuthbert. When she gets on the ball you’ve got a feeling she has the talent to produce something special. The issue is that we are struggling to give her enough of the ball and give it to her in meaningful positions. That will have to change against Argentina. 

While I’d prefer us to turn up a bit earlier and score our goals when there’s more time on the clock, it’s great to see that our female stars don’t down tools in the face of adversity and they play until the final whistle. The players clearly work hard to give their all for the cause and for their teammates.  

But again this is their first World Cup and they’ve managed to show a competitive edge against two good sides in England and Japan. They will learn a lot from those defeats and that will hopefully give us a better future in these big tournaments. 

On the men’s side, they too are learning. 

Manager Steve Clarke hardly had time to get his feet under the table before having to face Cyprus and Belgium in the European Championship qualifying campaign. 

We won one and lost one and that was what we were expecting. 

I actually saw more positives in our loss to Belgium than I did in our win over the Cypriots.

I think the win at Hampden was about getting the team playing to a game-plan and ready for a much more talented Belgian side. 

The main thing about the win over Cyprus was getting the three points. It was great that captain Andrew Robertson scored a superb goal and we showed character in scoring a late winner after conceding a late goal but ultimately it was all about securing the victory.

Against Belgium I think we looked like an old Scotland team that are tougher to beat. That might sound ridiculous as we lost 3-0 but under Alex McLiesh we looked like a team lost and under Clarke you can see that the players are being drilled and asked to stick to a formation. 

It’s obviously going to take a bit more time to perfect the style that the new gaffer wants to see his from his side plus we were missing a few key faces but we saw signs of improvement, especially in our team’s discipline in sticking to a task. 

I think Kilmarnock’s Greg Taylor did really well on his International debut. The twenty-one year old did a lot of the basics right and wasn’t overawed by the world class opposition. 

Scott McTominay and Kenny McLean made the midfield positions their own. I’m a big admirer of John McGinn but he’s so far struggled to make a real impact for Scotland. McTominay and McLean were industrious and snuffed out a lot of dangerous balls. They became overwhelmed at times due to Belgium’s strong possession stats but the duo kept going and that was good to see. They deserve another chance in the next outing, in my opinion. 

Like the women, our men’s defence have issues that cause uncertainty. We still need a better right-back and we also need a player that can lead the line at this level. 

All in all both Scotland senior side’s have a foundation to build from. They need to learn from their mistakes and become more confident in their own ability. 

By Scott Johnston (TheFootyblog.net)

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